Review by corran450

"Corran450's Review Series Vol. 17: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds"

The Legend of Zelda series has spawned some of the greatest video games of all time. Nintendo always puts great effort in their first party offerings, and the Zelda franchise is no exception. From the original “The Legend of Zelda”, to current offerings like “Skyward Sword”, these games have captivated gamers around the world with their compelling mythology, classic exploration, and innovative gameplay.

Perhaps one of the best loved games is “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” for Super NES. Many gamers feel that this is where the series found its stride in terms of story-telling. Certainly it was the most ambitious title in the series up to that point, and featured many gameplay innovations that have become hallmarks of the series. It was in the spirit of this classic entry that the newest game in the series was developed. Envisioned as a direct sequel to “A Link to the Past”, “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” expands on that particular incarnation of Hyrule, with many callbacks to that era, while expanding on its mythology and presenting a familiar, yet altered world that you may explore all over again. So how does it stack up to the classic?

Gameplay
The gameplay of “Between Worlds” will be instantly familiar to veterans of “Link to the Past”. You control Link, descendant of the hero of the first game, and explore the world of Hyrule from a top-down perspective, battling enemies and monsters using various tools and weapons you find along the way. You'll solve puzzles in deep dungeons, explore hidden areas, and find treasures to aid you on your quest.

Several new gameplay innovations are introduced, one of which returns the series to its roots in an aggressive way. Most tools/weapons can be acquired in the very early stages of the game. The shopkeeper Ravio sets up in Link's house, leasing the Bow, the Boomerang, Bombs, and many others. These tools are available pretty much from the start, costing rupees to rent from him. The catch is that if you fall in battle, the weapons are retrieved from you and you will have to pay to rent them again. It sounds arduous, but all it does is force you to be strategic with your weapon selections. Certain tools will be required for certain dungeons, and you will not need them for every dungeon. Past a certain point, Ravio will start selling the tools to you at an inflated price, but once you purchase an item, you won't lose it if you fall in battle.

The best part about this system is that it opens almost the entire world up to you from the get-go. You no longer have to wait to complete X Dungeon to reach a certain area. Thus, you can find heart pieces or rupees to your heart's content. And rupees are not by any means in short supply, so it's not difficult to keep yourself well stocked and well prepared. This returns the series back to its exploration roots. It also allows you to complete the dungeons in whichever order you choose.

Also, all weapons and tools are now managed by a recharging stamina meter, so that rather than consuming bombs or arrows and having to find more, you just wait for your meter to recharge, thus eliminating the need to pause your exploring to hunt down bombs. It sounds hokey, but it really streamlines the whole game.

Another major gameplay innovation is the ability to merge into the walls you become a two dimensional painting, thus allowing you to reach new areas you could not have reached before. This mechanic allows you to think about puzzles in new and exciting ways. It will take you by surprise. Trust me, I can't tell you how many times I stared at an impassable gap, scratching my head, trying to figure out how to get to the other side, only to suddenly remember that I could merge onto that wall over there and strut across. The ability to merge onto walls is also managed by your Stamina meter.

Story
The story starts off like most Zelda games, with a period of peace being shattered by an evil force. This time, a sorcerer from another world named Yuga is attacking descendants of the Seven Sages and turning them into paintings. His ultimate goal is break the barrier between Hyrule and the Dark World. Yuga intends to resurrect Ganon, so that he may absorb Ganon's power to create a new world for Yuga to rule.

Sahasrahla (how is he STILL ALIVE after all these years?) instructs Link to seek the medallions to enable him to wield the legendary Master Sword to defeat Yuga and end his nefarious plot. After retrieving the Master Sword, Link confronts Yuga, who defeats Link and turns him into a painting. Fortunately, Link is wearing a bracelet given to him by Ravio, the shopkeeper, that enables him to become a painting at will. Thus he ventures into the Dark World after Yuga, to rescue the Sages' descendants…

The story has a few hooks, one large reveal, and a particularly awesome twist at the end. The game is more focused on the exploration than the story, but the story is genuinely better than it has any right to be, and I quite enjoyed it.

Graphics
The graphics are very similar to “A Link to the Past”, but updated for modern technology. The whole world of Hyrule is stunningly beautiful, with bright colors in a cartoony style that borrows heavily from “Link to the Past” for character design and whatnot. The characters resemble their counterparts from the “Legend of Zelda” cartoon rather than the cel-shaded style from Wind Waker and its progeny. The design on the paintings is particularly compelling, with an old-fashioned style similar to early European art styles. I loved the way the painting of Link moved on the wall, the animation was very interesting and unique.

Naturally, the whole game is in 3D, and the way the dungeons are designed actually takes advantage of that fact. I play most 3DS games with the 3D turned off (except for cut scenes), mostly because it typically doesn't add anything to the experience, and if I use it too long, it gives me a headache. However, the 3D can help you solve puzzles, particularly in the Dark World, where depth plays a big factor in some of the dungeons. Also, certain enemies will act in three dimensions, flying above you and out of reach, so the 3D function can help you time your strikes.

I thought the graphics were good, but I was a bit turned off by the character designs of Link and Zelda. I didn't think the cartoony style worked as well in this game as it did in “The Wind Waker” subseries. But I understand why they did it: to maintain continuity between games. Obviously, “Phantom Hourglass” and “Spirit Tracks” were direct sequels to “Wind Waker”, so it wouldn't make sense for this game to be in the same graphical style, since it's not related to those games in the continuity.

Sound
This is one of the best soundtracks in the series! The score is full of references to the previous game, but songs are largely expanded throughout, with new arrangements, even multiple arrangements, depending on your progress in the game. I kept marveling at the music, even pausing just to listen to it, and the nostalgic feeling you get when you recognize a tune from the previous game makes it even better. The new tunes are awesome too.

The sound effects are also nostalgic, having been replicated from the previous game. Maybe you wouldn't think so, but the sound plays a huge part in connecting this game with “A Link to the Past”. I'd give this section an A+

Play Time/Replayability
It's time for some straight talking. This game is pretty short. Although, I recently played “A Link to the Past” again, and that was pretty short too. I probably put about 20 hours into it. It's hard to say because Zelda games don't have play clocks. Also, this game was not terribly difficult. I got stumped only a couple times, and usually because I forgot about the wall-merging ability. After defeating the game once, you are offered “Hero mode”, a higher difficulty quest with some added Easter eggs, as sort of a New Game+ function, similar to the second quest of the original “Legend of Zelda”. I haven't explored it yet, but when I play through it again, I will give it a shot.

There's something to be said for a short game, though. A lot of people, myself included, are more likely to play a game again if it doesn't require a significant time investment. Sure, 80-hour quests are fun, once, but investing that time more than once is hard for someone like me with limited leisure time.

There's a lot of side quests to pursue. Heart pieces abound, and a new collection side quest that involves some outside of the box thinking. A giant turtle/octopus/monstrosity named Mother Maiamai tasks you with finding her lost offspring. If you do, she rewards you by powering up your weapons with new and expanded abilities. There's 100 little Maiamais scattered around Hyrule and the Dark World.

There's also a few Street Pass functions available. You can use Nintendo Play Coins to purchase hints about your quest from Hint Ghosts. Also, you can tag other players in Street Pass mode and battle with their incarnation of Link for prizes. Unfortunately, I cannot review that function as none of my other friends have this game yet! I'm sure it's great…?

Final Recommendation
There's no such thing as a bad Zelda game. This is one of the best games I've played in a long time. It perfectly captures the spirit of its predecessor, while managing to offer a fresh and innovative adventure. It's short, but sweet, and offers a great portable adventure. If you have a 3DS, you need to pick this game up. I cannot recommend it enough. It's practically flawless (my only quibbles being minor nitpicking really), so I feel compelled to grant it my very first 10 rating. Great job, Nintendo, and keep up the good work!


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/04/13

Game Release: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (US, 11/22/13)


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